How does a behavioral neuroscientist end up directing some of the
funniest, most successful shows on the Concord Players' stage? Read on.
Brian Kelly was born with a celestial singing voice, a knack for
showmanship and an innate curiosity about what makes humans tick. No
wonder he became a behavioral neuroscientist, and no surprise that he is
also a gifted theatrical director. He uses his powers of observation to
imagine a show from the audience point of view. So far, he has imagined
flawlessly for The Concord Players.
His first two shows, Monty Python's Spamalot and Mel Brooks' The Producers
were sold-out smash hits on The Players' stage. Audiences pronounced
their unequivocal approval with standing ovations every night, while
casts and companies had the time of their lives under the thoughtful,
collaborative style of this talented director. It's to be expected
though, from a director who takes such a cooperative approach.
"I don't like to micromanage all aspects of the
production. I like the other artistic eyes to have fun creating
something they can be proud of. I have ideas and let the team run with
them and develop their own," he says.
As Craig Howard, a cast member in Spamalot,
said, "It was a complete pleasure to work under the direction of Brian
Kelly! He always came in well-prepared, and clearly communicated
what was expected of his actors. While he was willing to listen to
thoughts from us, it was always clear who was ultimately in charge, and I
think we all quickly grew to trust his ideas and instincts. His
love of comedy was key in the development of our production, and Brian
threw himself (sometimes literally) into the core of all elements of our
It all started early for Brian. As a child of six, he
made Christmas videos for his grandmother, one year portraying all the
characters in A Christmas Carol. Other early credits include an
ensemble that included Brian with 12 or 13 cousins regaling the
extended family with concerts at Christmas parties. All through
elementary and middle school, Brian honed his skills with small plays
and anthologies, casting himself and classmates in suitable roles. As a
member of the University of Massachuesetts Theatre Guild, he continued
to perform, until in graduate school something clicked. "I directed The Importance of Being Earnest
and realized at that point that there is something really special about
creating a story, not just playing a part in it. I have been hooked
Lucky for The Players that he is. His next gig for us will be Michael Frayn's Noises Off.
The show is sure to live up to its reputation as "the funniest farce
every written," with Kelly at the helm. His impeccable sense of comedic
timing is the satisfying ingredient in the shows he directs, although he
displays only modesty when talking about his approach. "It's about
trial and error and trying things different ways," he tells us. "I hear
things and see things in my head and, quite honestly, I am usually
wrong. But I am not afraid to keep trying things or to change my mind
about something. Eventually, it comes out OK!"
Anyone who has worked with him knows that his
self-effacement is sincere, but belies both the talent and the steady
hand that guide Kelly in his work. During the Players production of Spamalot,
a projector broke down minutes before an important scene. Without the
slides in the projector, the stage would be blank and the scene would
make no sense. Brian didn't rail at the gods or the projectionist,
didn't thrash about and pull out his hair, didn't even need to breathe
into a paper bag. Calmly, quickly and quietly, he worked backstage with
crew and costumers to find elements that actors could use to illustrate
the action, all the while giving direction to the actors about how the
new scene would work. Happily, the projector was fixed in time for the
scene, but the episode illustrated the leadership and creativity a
company needs from its director, and rightfully earned for Brian the
enduring respect and admiration of all in the ensemble.
Brian began as a performer and sometimes returns to his roots. His favorite roles include Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Nicely Nicely Johnson in Guys and Dolls, Horton in Seussical and Harold Bride in Titanic.
A DASHING SEASON
The Concord Players were again honored with a number of DASH
nominations for the 2016-2017 season. In total, The Concord Players
received 13 nominations:
Best Musical Production
Best Supporting Actor/Musical James Fitzpatrick and Josh Wright
Best Set Dressing/Musical Allen Bantley and Charlotte Kelley
Best Sound Design/Musical Tom Powers
Best Costume/Musical Carol Antos
Best Hair Design and Make Up/Musical Deanne Lander and Charlie Atherton
Best Props/Musical Allen Bantley, Charlotte Kelley and Linda McConchie
Best Specialty Ensemble/Musical The Grannies
Best Musical Direction/Musical Lee Condakes
Best Choreography/Musical Katie Alexander
Best Lead Actor/Musical Ronny Pompeo
Best Hair Design and Make up/Play Marc Capizzi and Charlie Atherton
The EMACT DASH Gala will take place on Saturday, August
26, at Carey Hall in Lexington. Contact EMACT for ticket
NEWS FROM OUR PERIPATETIC PLAYERS
Paul Murphy will be directing Quannapowitt Player's production of Ken Ludwig's Moon Over Buffalo. Kerrie Miller, Rachel Rabinowitz, Diana Doyle and Leslie Wagner are among the cast. The show opens in September. Go to www.QPtheater.com for more information and tickets.
Flyleaf Theater Company has announced a fundraising production of Into the Woods to
be performed on September 8-10 and 15-17 at the Concord Youth Theater
performance space. The production is being directed by Brian Kelly and
the cast includes Amanda Casale as Florida, Carly Evans as The Baker's Wife,
Joshua Wright as the Steward, and Jon Linden as the
Narrator/Mysterious Man. Tickets are 18 ($15 for students-
seniors). Concord Youth Theatre is located at 358 Baker Avenue in
Concord, MA. For tickets go to www.flyleaftheater.com
Kirsten Gould is directing Yazmina Reza's Art at Acme Theater in Maynard. The show opens in November. Tickets and information at www.Acmetheater.com
The Vokes Players production of Chicago
features Stephen Murray as Billy Flynn, Andrew Swansburg as Harry, Doug
Hodge as Martin Harrison and Stephanie Mann as Mary Sunshine. Ensemble
members /Supporting Roles include Jenny Gratz Owens as Hunyak and Jill
Braverman as a tap dancer, with John Murtagh as Stage manager.
Performances Nov. 2 to 18 at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday Nov. 11 and 18 at
BRIAN KELLY CONT.
has worked with many local theaters as a director: Westborough Players'
Club, Encore Repertory Company, The Stadium Theater, Open Door Theater,
Enter Stage Left, and Flyleaf Theater, but for the next two years at
least, The Concord Players intend to monopolize his time. He's just
accepted a spot on the Players' board and it looks like the beginning of
a beautiful relationship.
Players president Tracy Wall is delighted. "Everyone in our group
loves working with Brian," she says. "We welcome his creative ideas,
intelligent insights and collaborative style. Working with him makes
As for Brian, he seems delighted too. "The Concord
Players are one of the most organized groups I have worked with.
Everyone has their own job and loves collaboration. I joined the board
because I believe in what The Concord Players do and how it works. I
love being a part of the organization and want to do what I can to help
keep it strong."
Thank you Mr. Kelly. Anything else?
"... mostly, I just try to forget my real life and have fun
doing something I am passionate about." How could anyone say it better?